Posts Tagged With: Birmingham Hippodrome

The Voyage – Victoria Square, Birmingham

A free, outdoor dance spectacular finally managed to set sail after having the first night rained off – and the wait, well it was so worth it. The Voyage helping to launch the London 2012 festival is set upon a ship that spans the length of Birmingham’s iconic Town Hall and uses the space of Victoria Square (and its audience) to show the ship setting sail launching its passengers into a new life.  Produced by Birmingham Hippodrome and created by dance company Motion House and featuring stunning aerialists and performers from Australian performance company Legs On The Wall it’s a massive treat for the eyes and with performances from the Town Hall’s own gospel choir and a stunning orchestra and soundtrack it’s also a treat for the ears.

Stunning projections that have been carefully mapped onto the side of the ship and the Town Hall to make it feel as though the ship is actually setting sail.  From waves crashing against the hull, to cities forming on the Town Hall you really get the impression that you too are going on the journey.

The narrative of the piece is sometimes lost in the amazing visuals, but it is easy enough to follow along with when you get back on track but every single performance in the huge cast is brilliant.  The cast includes a large number of local youngsters taking part alongside the professionals of Motion House and Legs On The Wall and all looked to be really enjoying themselves in taking part in such a fantastic event.

I could go on about this for a long time – but I’d only start spoiling things and repeating myself.  It is honestly one of the best things I have ever seen and is a real life example of the word spectacular.  The weather might not be looking too great for tonight (Saturday) but keep an eye out on the weather forecast and the website/twitter/facebook of The Voyage (links to follow) for the latest news.  It’s on till tomorrow night ONLY and will not be seen again in Birmingham after that.  It starts at 10pm but last night reached capacity by then so get there early.  And as for the best place to stand? I was in line with the Victoria statue (which probably wished it had turned around to watch it – like the CCTV!) and had a great view, too close and you won’t have the full affect of the projections.  And if it rains? Try to use a hood rather than a brolly.

The Voyage – 5 broken champagne bottles smashed against its hull out of 5!

The Voyage is performed (weather permitting) at 10pm on Saturday 23rd and Sunday 24th June 2012 in Victoria Square, Birmingham.  It’s FREE!

Website: www.thevoyage.org.uk (Includes MUCH better photos than my grainy iPhone ones!)

Twitter: @TheVoyage2012

Facebook: TheVoyage2012

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I Dreamed a Dream….

First of all, let’s go back to April 11th 2009 when families gathered around their TVs to watch the first episode of a new series of Britain’s Got Talent.  During the episode, there was this audition…

It turned out that that lone audition would capture the entire world thanks to the power of YouTube and the Internet.  Now in 2012, a whole musical based around the life of Susan Boyle is touring the UK and last night I went to see the opening night of the show’s Birmingham run at the Birmingham Hippodrome.

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I have decided that this blog is going to be the most honest ‘review’ I’ll have given so far – as I cannot decide exactly what I thought of this show but that’ isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  As I waited outside the theatre for the other half to arrive I noticed the demographic of the audience was an older crowd mainly middle aged ladies and their mothers (or husbands).  People walking past the theatre who weren’t attending scoffed at the idea of a Susan Boyle (affectively known as SuBo) musical and for a while I was in that camp too.  I couldn’t fathom how a musical based on SuBo would work and wondered if we’d have some actors hamming it up as Cowell and co for the audition.  However – the production surprised me and although there were moments when I did actually cringe, I left the theatre glad I had taken an evening to go see the show.

I didn’t always feel like that however.  In fact for the first 20 minutes I couldn’t wait for the interval and was considering whether to even bother sticking around for the second half, but once (and this sounds horrible) SuBo was being bullied it stated to turn a corner.  At times the imposing set of television screens and black glossy doors made too much of an impression, but on the whole it worked well, even if I did spend a lot of time trying to find the cameras filming reactions of actors for some of the screens.

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All the cast were fantastic.  Obviously Elaine C Smith in the role of Susan Boyle has to be mentioned.  Her singing was great with her performances of ‘Wild Horses’ and ‘Someone to Watch Over Me’ sending tingles across the audience.  Her renactment of the famous audition was performed with precision and her portrayal of Susan losing her parents and her breakdown were with great emotion.  She told the story – in form of SuBo looking back at her life and narrating with clarity – although the constant clicking of fingers to freeze or switch action soon got tedious.  Other stand out performances include James Paterson as Mr Boyle, Karen Mann as Mrs Boyle and Ashleigh Gray as the ever dependable friend Lorraine.  

As for the music, it was a collection of songs from musicals, pop songs and hymns used to try link the story together.  On the whole it worked well with a haunting arrangement of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ to open the two acts and ‘This Will Be Our Year’ sang between SuBo and her mother to show her mother’s support.  However some of the arrangements weren’t too great and these were the moments I actually cringed such as the Blood Brothers’ inspired version of ‘Perfect Day’, the raggae ‘Mad World’ performed by the ensemble wearing Simon Cowell, Amanda Holden and Piers Morgan masks whilst holding newspapers to show the press attacks on SuBo and the chorus of Crowded House’s ‘Don’t Dream It’s Over’ to show SuBo in rehab.  Another thing that bugged me about the music was that we never heard a whole song.  Yes, there are 31 songs listed in the programme – 23 of them in Act 1 alone – but it wouldn’t have hurt to have had a full version of ‘Wild Horses’ rather than cutting it after one verse and chorus when the audience are entrapped.

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One of the highlights for me was the scene prior to the audition with SuBo in the queue waiting to audition with a range of characters from musicians to a clown, to a trumpet player to a tapdancing group of ladies. As they wait they burst into ‘Stuck in the Middle With You’ – one the more inspired song choices.

As I mentioned earlier the play was full of finger clicking to freeze or gather thoughts.  I felt this was the weakest aspect of the script which wasn’t the strongest to start off with.  Personally this let it down as it felt a bit school-play like with the freezing for a thought idea.  However, the script did tell the story well and I guess the thoughts were valuable to the story.  I just wish they’d come up with a more original idea to do this.  It would have been good too if they could have used Britain’s Got Talent branding – but guessing it would have been a mammoth task and very expensive to have done so.

I started this post saying I didn’t know what I thought of this show – and I still don’t.  However, I did send these tweets last night and this morning:

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And I think that’s my conclusion. It really is intriguing and at times surreal – especially the final 10 minutes when SuBo makes an appearance to perform a couple of songs.  I wanted to see this because I was curious.  I went in with no expectations and no idea what it was going to be like.  That was the best decision.  Yes, there were moments I didn’t like, but on the whole it was one of those shows that will stick with you for a long time – and for the right reasons.

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Oh yeah, and if you do see this show at the Birmingham Hippodrome this week do not attempt to take photos of SuBo at the end – the staff will pounce on you!!

I’m not going to rate this show – but it comes recommended.

‘The Susan Boyle Musical I Dreamed a Dream’ is on at Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday.

The tour continues to Inverness and Manchester until June 23rd.  Information at the show’s website

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A Wonderful Show for a Wonderful Town

Apologies for my silence.  Things need to change and change they will.

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Anyway last night I was lucky enough to go see Bernstein’s Wonderful Town‘ at Birmingham Hippodrome.  The show, currently touring across the UK starring the ‘nation’s Maria’ Connie Fisher, isn’t one that I was attracted to in any way, and if it wasn’t for an invite on a day I wasn’t busy I probably wouldn’t have gone to see.  However, I quickly realised that my feelings towards this show were wonderfully wrong.

Wonderful Town is a traditional American musical – based in the 1950s we follow two sisters, Ruth (Fisher) and Eileen (Lucy van Gasse) who decide to come to New York from Ohio to seek their fortunes.  It’s a clichéd plot where two people move to a bigger city and their innocence is battled but all comes good in the end – but clichéd or not, it works well in this show.  There aren’t any complicated side plots, and the main plot you see coming a mile away, but it’s all good fun and the cast appear to be having a whale of a time on the stage.

Just thought of another title for this post – Wonderful by name, Wonderful by nature.  The show just gives itself awesome names for positive blogs and reviews!!

The design (by Simon Higlett) of the show is classic 1950s America.  Costumes are of the period, and the buildings depicted are classic skyscrapers from the era.  The colour purple is the main colour for the throngs of people – from purple suits to shiny purple trousers of writers to a purple desk with purple paper and purple side way sky scrapers showing the depth of the stage.  There is an early set piece in which the ensemble in their purple suits and orange gloves mould the first days in the city with tight cheography (by Andrew Wright) and direction which uses the set to its full potential.

The cast are brilliant – they all support each other and there isn’t one member letting the others down.  Connie Fisher is brilliant as Ruth, the sensible sister to Lucy van Gasse’s care free Eileen.  The two together have such a large range from Fisher’s lower tones to Gasse’s higher pitched singing and they work so well together, complimenting each other’s styles perfectly.  The main male character Bob Baker is played by Michael Xavier who’s lowest tones almost cause the theatre to vibrate!! There are such wonderful voices in this show – possibly the best cast in terms of singers I’ve seen in a very long time.  Other stand out performances include Nic Greenshields who plays the giant of a laundry expert Wreck Loomis and the artist landlord Mr Appopolous played by Sevan Stephan.  The ensemble are fantastic – with the opening of Act 2 to go down in comedy legend with their portrayal of the New York police department…. (won’t spoil it for you – but the accents are all brilliant!)  The only downside to the show is that the few slower songs/ballads don’t necessary suit the show and slow the action down, but it’s only a small point and with this cast they make those songs great!

Wonderful Town is a great show – and should be amongst the American classics but is overshadowed by the likes of Bernstein’s other musical hit West Side Story.  It’s definitely worth a trip to the theatre – even if the weather is getting better outside!!

4.5 Big Apples out of 5

Tour stays in Birmingham until Saturday 26th May – Ticket information can be found at the Birmingham Hippodrome website.  Then moves onto Southampton, Norwich, Newcastle, Woking, Plymouth and Cardiff ending on 7th July 2012.  More tour information at the Wonderful Town website.

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Review: END OF THE RAINBOW @ Birmingham Hippodrome (on tour)

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End of the Rainbow, currently on at the Birmingham Hippodrome, tells the story of the the final tragic months of Judy Garland.  Far from her days as Dorothy, the Garland, played by (Olivier award nominee for best actress for this part) Tracie Bennett, shows us the Garland who couldn’t get through shows without the support of drugs and alchol and who allowed everyone around her to dictate what she should and could do while trying to repay her debts.  The tragic story is performed with immense drama but also contaibs hilarious (yet hearbreaking) comedy as Garland tries to make light of moments – such as when it turns out she’s downed a bottle of pills for a dog.

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Bennett is supported by Norman Bowman playing her fiance Mickey Deans and Hilton McRae as Anthony her trusted pianist.  Bowman shows how difficult Garland was to deal with as Deans deals with managing the global star as both her manager and lover, while McRae shows how Anthony tried to help Garland get out of the stressful situations.  A moving scene towards the end shows Anthony trying to get Garland to leave Deans and move with him to Brighton where they could lead a platonic but loving life by the sea.  When Deans enters and demands to know what’s happening, Garland simply says they were saying goodbye, leaving Anthony heartbroken knowing that she was sealing her fate.  Each actor brings life to these real characters and pull at the appropriate heart strings to make the audience believe they are seeing it actually happening infront of them. 

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I would love to go on and on about this show – but on this occassion I can’t.  I can’t fault it and I can’t sing it’s praises highly enough and I don’t want to ruin anything for you by adding spoilers! I know that’s rare of me, but on this occassion I can’t do it.  It is a stunning show.  It was nothing like I expected it to be, and although I had heard great things before I had no real expectations – but I was blown away.  Bennett really steals the show and her Garland is near perfect.  There is a lot of pain but also some genuine laughs.  

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So yeah, a short, brief review but this show is awesome and if you can see it before it goes to Broadway (of course with Bennett) then do so.  It’s got a few more dates on it’s tour so if it comes near you then get some tickets.

End of the Rainbow gets 5 stars out of 5

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End of the Rainbow is at Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday 22nd October 2011.  

It then travels to Aberdeen, Cheltenham, Bath, Sheffield and then Richmond until 26th November.

Information can be found at http://www.endoftherainbowtour.com/tour/

 

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Review: EVITA @ Birmingham Hippodrome

I’ve just come back from the current touring production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s 1978’s biopic musical based on the life of Eva Peron, EVITA.

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From the outset the production shows that no expense has been spared (a rarity in touring shows) with a huge cast – half of which are made out of a voiceless local ensemble and a chorus of children, stunning pieces of set and a stunning orchestration.  Abigail Jaye and Mark Powell lead the cast as Eva and Che with aplomp and confidence with Jaye’s faultless vocals throughout the show with (unsurprisingly) Don’t Cry For Me Argentina being a stand out point with the audience providing the applause and cheers that the sound effects guys play over the end!  At times Powell’s Che doesn’t have the power that we would expect from him, but he too is faultless throughout his omnipresent state in the show.

Mark Heenehan plays Peron with authority and Sasha Rans almost steals the show with her portrayal of the Mistress and her absolutly stunning rendition of Another Suitcase in Another Hall.  The cast and ensemble all play their parts with seemingly no effort though the local ensemble sometimes lack what the others give (though to give them their due it was their first time doing it with an audience tonight – same with the children – and I’m sure as the run continues they’ll improve).

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The plot is complex (if you don’t know the story of Eva Peron before hand), and the direction though mostly clear has a few moments when things seem a bit confused.  Luckily the strength of the cast though kept me engaged and so I failed to drift off.  There are also a number of spectacular dance numbers and millions (maybe an exagaration) of costume changes – some in such unbelievably short amounts of time.  The set is very effective with balconies and archways forming many different locations.  Huge well dones to the lighting designer for the small, yet effective lights in the columns that transform the arches quickly and make them feel like whole new pieces of set!

Overall this is a fantastic show.  The staging is brilliant and the cast is faultless.  Only criticisms would be that following the plot without prior knowledge can cause you to get a bit lost, but such is the story of Eva Peron.  This is the show’s final stop on it’s tour so worth going to see it if you have the chance.

4 Argentinian Flags out of 5

Evita is on at Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday 24th September 2011.

Tickets can be booked online.

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Cooo-eeee

Hey everybody!

Had a bit of a summer break, but now that the wind and rain is battering at the windows I thought I’d better make a return.  Sadly my summer wasn’t filled with theatrical delights, apart from the one stunning evening in which I got to see Singin’ In The Rain at Chichester’s Chichester Festival Theatre.  If you follow my twitter you’ll have seen a very brief review which simply stated that it was fantastic – but I will explain why in a future blog.

So after spending my summer away from the red velvet curtains and the plush purple seats of the theatre, I’m preparing myself for several delights over the coming month or two.  I’m hoping to make it to an amateur production of Just So at the Arena Theatre in Wolverhampton (cast your mind back to my underrated blog a while back), seeing the touring production of Evita when it visits the Birmingham Hippodrome, and seeing the Judy Garland biopic End Of The Rainbow.  I will also be venturing down to London to attend a very special concert at the Royal Albert Hall by Idina Menzel and while visiting London will probably go see Ghost The Musical to get over my obsession.  I’ll also be venturing down to Chichester again in October to see Micheal Ball’s Sweeney Tood.  I’m also hoping to make it to the tour of Legally Blonde, the opening of The Crescent Theatre’s new season with Talking Heads, and if I’m able to find the time, the world premiere produciton of Top Hat at the Hippodrome.  

As long as I don’t forget the password (again) and don’t break my computer (my laptop went to PC Heaven over the summer) I hope to keep this blog updated regularly and with continuation of the features I started way back when… If you have any suggestions feel free to send my way (and that includes if you can get my hands on any nice, free, tickets!!)

 

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Six Summer Saturdays… Hmmm…

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When I did my Hippodrome blog you may recall I mentioned Six Summer Saturdays.  A fantastic idea and I cannot fault the Hippodrome for trying to fill those summer Saturdays with some culture and theatre – however, and the ‘Hmmm’ in the title probably suggests, I wasn’t that excited or thrilled by what I saw on Saturday when I was in Birmingham.

The main event for the weekend just gone was circus performance and circus skills in Chamberlain Square.  Fine, it’s a good idea and parts were great – however when there’s a huge event happening on the adjoining space (Victoria Square) that is seriously outdoing what they’re doing in terms of effort and activities it doesn’t bode well.  And sadly I felt deflated and let down by the Hippodrome’s offers on Saturday and I spent most of my time enjoying the music, food and festivities at Jamaica Live – that huge event next to them.

Looking further into these two events they were apparently linked, although Jamaica Live had been arranged by other groups.  The one thing linking them was the Olympics Open Weekend.  Events were happening across the country to celebrate there being only a year until the start of London 2012.  Jamaica Live had the Olympic mascot, Olympic flags and genereally had a huge celebratory atmosphere – it also had a clear link to the Olympics, celebrating the Jamaican team not only for next year but also with a display of replica tobaggan carts used in training for the winter Olympics.  I find it very difficult to see what link the Hippodrome’s ‘No Fit Circus’ had with the Olympics.  Maybe at a stretch some gymnastics, but apart from that not much else.  It seems very much that the Hippodrome were more latching themselves onto a (I’m pesuming) funded event and taking advantage with some strenious (if that) links.

Looking through the programme for this year’s Six Summer Saturdays I’m not impressed.  The first event for example was some Jazz music – which, with massive ‘coincidence’ just so happened to fall into Birmingham’s International Jazz Festival.  So nothing new of different from what had been happening across Birmingham, nothing unique, nothing that exciting.  Poor effort for something to launch a summer of ‘big’ events.  Another event they had was using Titan the robot.  You’ve seen him on Paul O Grady, in pantos, on other TV shows, on Big Brother and a number of other events – a couple of years back.  Where’s the new, exciting, unique and artistic things we’re expecting? Also, to highlight my opinion that the Hippodrome have been jumping onto pre arranged things and hijacking them – the Hippodrome have been promoting ‘Ping!’ which, in fairness they do acknowledge that it’s run by another company, as an event you can do as part of 6SS…. they had nothing to do with them being installed, and if I’m right in thinking, members of the public can use the ping pong tables across the city whenever they want or whenever someone from STK International is present.

To compliment the negative vibes so far, I do have to admit that the events planned for the next few weeks do look better.  But when promoting the event ‘Snow in the City’ why do they have to use a picture of the event being held in London?! Make these things seem unique to Birmingham, make them look special, make them look fun and make them look like they belong to the people of Birmingham like the theatre.  This year’s 6SS doesn’t seem to have the intregrity and promise that last year’s highly successful one had.  Whatever the reason why needs to be addressed as 6SS is a fantastic idea, and needs to be brilliantly executed. 

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Theatres of Birmingham – The Birmingham Hippodrome

Birmingham has a vast array of theatres from the large theatres that host touring spectaculars to the smaller theatres that host new writers and groups.  Which leads us into a new series of blogs about the theatres of Birmingham (well, the ones I’ve been to – I’ll admit, I’ve not been to all of them!)

First up is the first theatre in Birmingham I went to when I first moved here, the Birmingham Hippodrome.

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The Hippodrome has a vast history opening back in the 1890s as the Tower of Varieties and Circus it even had a replica Blackpool Tower which stayed until 1963.  It was an enterprise that failed quickly and reopened as the Tivoli in 1900, becoming the Hippodrome in 1903.  The current auditorium was designed in 1924 and seats around 1,900.  It underwent a huge transformation in the early 2000s to update its facilities and building as well as the opening of the Patrick Centre – a studio space that is used primarily by the Dance XChange as well as by other outside groups.

Although it tends to host touring shows, the theatre is the home to the Birmingham Royal Ballet (BRB).  Recently celebrating 20 years together there was a gala performance with HRH Prince Charles (which I was lucky enough to attend).  Therefore within the regular touring musicals there will be a season of ballets that compliments the array of shows that they show.

Last year the Hippodrome launched Six Summer Saturdays.  Six different events that take place in a variety of locations across the city.  Last year it was a huge success and is being repeated this year with six new events.

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What kind of shows will you find at the Hippodrome?

The Hippodrome is the home to the big touring musicals (in the summer there tends to be a blockbuster musical for several weeks), the huge record breaking pantomimes (the last one starred Joan Collins, Julian Clary and Nigel Havers!) and ballet and opera.

Who goes to the Hippodrome?

Thanks to its varied seasons, anyone from families to the older generation and from all walks of life are found at the Hippodrome.

What’s coming up?

Currently the host to the smash hit tour of ‘We Will Rock You’. Future shows this season include ‘Top Hat’, ‘End of the Rainbow’, ‘Slava’s Snow Show’, ‘BRB’s Nutcracker’ and the panto ‘Cinderella’ with Brain Conley and Lynda Bellingham.

First show seen here?

Jerry Springer the Opera

Last show seen here?

Yes, Prime Minister

Over notable shows seen:

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang; Mary Poppins; Slava’s Snow Show; Flashdance; Footlosse; Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake, The Car Man & Dorian Gray; BRB Nutcracker

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Links:

 

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